Schutzhund and positive reinforcement training

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by sallygoeswaltzing, Nov 20, 2010.

  1. sallygoeswaltzing

    sallygoeswaltzing New Member

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    Hello all, I was curious as to what everyone thought about Schutzhund training and using positive reinforcement methods. I've been researching Schutzhund and talking to lots of people who compete in it, and hope to compete in it when I finally get my dobie. I'm a huge fan of positive reinforcement training and clicker training- I don't use corrections. Now, I've talked to lots of people in the Schutzhund community, and many, many people seem to believe that you HAVE to use corrections when training a Schutzhund dog. I just don't believe that's true- I've worked with many dogs at my shelter of all different shapes and sizes who have had a variety of problems, and am pretty confident in my ability to train using only positive reinforcement training.

    I find it so surprising that once something like protection is mentioned, that people immediately assume that a dog must be given corrections. They need to be "proofed"- which is what I have heard many Schtuzhund people say. What do you guys think about this- and do you believe it's possible to train a Schutzhund dog using positive reinforcement?
     
  2. AgilityPup

    AgilityPup Agility freak!

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    I'm interested in following this thread. I'm currently working with a German Shepherd breeder who does Schutzhund and she doesn't use positive reinforcement training, so I'm curious about when I get a GSD puppy if I'll be able to do it without corrections.
     
  3. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    I do think most of schutzhund training not only can be, but should be done using positive motivation.

    Whether or not all of schutzhund training can be done without ever using corrections is another issue. In theory? Maybe. In reality? It depends on how skilled you are at positive motivation training and building control without corrections, it depends on how the dog responds to the training method, it depends on what drives are in play and how strong they are, it might depend on how far you want to go in training.

    For a better answer than I can write:
    http://www.chazhound.com/forums/t71467/#post992681 (post number 6)
     
  4. sallygoeswaltzing

    sallygoeswaltzing New Member

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    Thanks CorgiPower that was a really interesting thread. It's interesting that they bring up the fact that a dog has a different psychological state during schutzhund, and their state of "aggression". I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. I'll have to think about this a bit because I'm having a hard time verbalising my thoughts on the matter. I'll have to post later once I organise my thoughts some more. :)
     
  5. release the hounds

    release the hounds Active Member

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    a lot can be done purely with no leash and no collar. but in the end, how good are you? how good is your dog? What's your end goal?

    in one instance a prong collar could shut one dog down and bring the other up and add more clarity. On another dog, it adds confusion and hectic behaviors, and for some in that same situation it does nothing at all.

    What can be done "purely positive" on the ob field might not be so easy on the protection field.

    But it's complicated, if you're training the total dog and using it as a breed test, then No, i'd say it can't be done purely positively. If you're just using it for fun, don't care about testing, seeing the different drives and thresholds of the dog, and don't have high aspirations for high level competition, then sure, have at it, but I bet you'll still use some corrections.
     
  6. Maura

    Maura New Member

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    What it takes is a really good trainer. You are asking your dog for advanced level obedience, and so you have to be really aware of what you are asking from your dog. I can easily & quickly train a dog to walk at the heel, but if I want the dog to maintain a perfect position and/or I want the dog to look at me while heeling, I have to go beyond simply getting him to walk next to me for a dozen feet.

    Pretty much, I have to put much more time into the dog if I want to win prizes, this is true in any sport. In Schutzhund, they want to see a dog that will actually bite, not just happily jump around the helper. William Koehler wrote a book on protection dog training. He uses very little correction. His focus is having a dog that can independently ascertain if a human is being a threat, a dog that can be called off, a dog that will attack a person one minute, and calmly ignore him the next (police dog). If you want a dog to be able to think independently, you can't have him being worried about being corrected. That being said, I use clicker and never put a choker on my dogs, so take what you can use from Koehler. You also have to understand that he was training dogs for real jobs, not for ribbons in a "sport".

    And, what is a correction? How do I let my dog know he isn't behaving correctly if he's not wearing a choker? How do I "correct" him when he's on one side of the sheep and I'm on the other? I find using either a verbal aversive (ahh!) or stopping command (down) or simply calling him off (back off, or that'll do) works well, but you have to have a well trained dog before you put him on sheep or put his teeth on people.

    If I wanted to put a dog in schutzhund, I'd first look for a dog with a very very good temperament. I'd socialize him like crazy and work him so he loves seeing the leash come out, or other indication that we are going to be working together. I'd have a solid recall, heel, etc. I'd want him to be confident. In Koehler's book he does outline a situation for the dog to help determine how confident he is, how aggressive he is etc., so that you can work within the comfort zone of the dog and not ruin him.

    I don't see anything wrong with using both clicker and a toy in training, how far can you get with that type of training? Don't know, but I'll bet you could figure it out.
     
  7. CharlieDog

    CharlieDog Rude and Not Ginger

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  8. stardogs

    stardogs Behavior Nerd

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    Just got back from Schutzhund practice myself and I'm a clicker trainer. :) I think the most difficult aspect of the sport is finding a club/trainer who is willing to let you try +R exclusively - I belong to a club that is open to letting members choose their techniques, which means we have a large variety of methods seen in each practice.

    Clicker training (aka marker training) is really taking off in the sport and I'm seeing more and more acknowledgement that is is a pretty powerful technique. Many of the people I know in the club I'm in appear to use primarily +R when training in all phases and then add in +P/-R to "proof" the behaviors.

    Obedience can certainly be trained with +R/-P exclusively imo. Tracking, same thing. Protection? We'll see. I think the biggest challenge in the protection phase is working a dog in a high arousal state with the reinforcer as part of the interaction with the helper *right there* - whether you can control the resources when a dog is in that phase will be a challenge. I'm going to try my darndest to train without +P/-R, but I'm only 4 practices in at this point, so we shall see.

    I'm a member of the click-bite yahoo group - perhaps you should join that list for more specific info!
     
  9. Kat09Tails

    Kat09Tails *Now with Snark*

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    I know of one person who has gotten to SchIII using pure positive training, I'm sure there are more than just one person doing that training method . You will need to look far and wide for a trainer and training group to help you with your dobe and even then you may not find the training style you'd like. You will also need to look far and wide for a dobe and even then you may not find the dog you're looking for. Start looking sooner rather than later and spend alot of time watching how people work their dogs and start networking to find helpers. You will also need to start getting equipment together.

    I wouldn't say in a blanket that all trainers in schutzhund believe in compulsion training and corrections. There are a fair number that do... and well they are able to get to high levels with some dogs using that method just like motivational teachers. The thing about that old school methodology is that it *does work* for some dogs but will crush a fair number and jade a number as well. With motivational training people can do better in educating and conditioning a larger number of dogs and ring sports and schutzhund are adapting to those changes. It just takes time and a new generation of accomplishments and trainers to get to that point and properly examine the role of corrections.
     
  10. Zoom

    Zoom Twin 2.0

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    Maura, have you *ever* read actually anything by Kohler? HE IS *ALL ABOUT CORRECTIONS*. This is the basis the military trainers take for their dogs and it's an entire dimension above and beyond what the normal pet owner needs to be doing with their dogs. Please, stop talking until you have an actual idea of what the fsck you are talking about.

    Otherwise, I agree with Stardogs. You can do a lot with +R/-P in almost any venue, it's just getting passed the traditionalists in the given sport. There are some areas of protection that are going to incorporate what looks like harsh punishment (whacking the dog with an object) but done properly, it's building drive and the dog thinks it's all part of the game. I don't train in protection at all, but I've made a game out of whacking Sawyer in the face with his favorite toy, because it builds drive and proofs against idiots/kids doing stupid things to him.

    You can proof without harsh correction. Proofing is nothing more than making sure your dog "gets" a given exercise under a variety of contexts.
     
  11. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    +198million rep points, if we had rep points

    If the part of training where they "whack the dog with an object" looks anything like harsh punishment, then it's being done completely wrong and you need to get you and your dog far away, fast.

    The punishment that is used in protection training is stuff like, among other things, a collar pop or ecollar zap when the dog breaks his heel and runs for the sleeve, or collar pops/lifting the dog by the collar when he doesn't "out".
     
  12. Zoom

    Zoom Twin 2.0

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    I'm talking about when you get the dog to the part of training where they are happily and readily putting a full bite on a sleeve and hanging on for dear life. Oftentimes you will see the "target" have a soft object that they start whapping the dog with on the sides and such and by that point of training, it's all about proofing another level and isn't actually hurting the dog. But it's *only* for dogs that have achieved that level of training, it's not for a dog that isn't sure about what's going on.
     
  13. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    I know exactly what you're talking about. But it shouldn't at all look like it's "harsh punishment". It should look like taps with a padded stick.
     
  14. pitbullpony

    pitbullpony BSL Can Be Beaten

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    Obedience and tracking can and should be trained positively; while the protection aspect would simply be positively reinforced with the bite; that would be my idea anyway. The out (which is where you often see e-collars and prongs being used) could be trained and built upon using positive reinforcement with tugs at the very beginning.

    I'm not sure how you would handle a dirty dog; but then again maybe positive reinforcement-trained dogs don't get dirty -- not sure.

    I'm also not sure how you'd handle gaining intensity in the hold and bark exercise; but I think that is a judgement call anyway; so who knows.

    I know the blind search is often taught using a hanging tree; nothing more positive than being rewarded in your search than by your favourite ball.

    Interesting articles I found here; Schutzhund Village
     
  15. release the hounds

    release the hounds Active Member

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    I have a question, has anyone on here that comments on Koehler actually ever read his books?
     
  16. sallygoeswaltzing

    sallygoeswaltzing New Member

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    Thanks everyone for your insight, and thanks Charlie for that link. I have read her blog before on the Karen Pryor blog site, didn't realise she had another one.

    I've read a bit of Koehler and don't fancy him at all. Honestly I've never used corrections and have never felt the need to use one- but then again I've never trained a working dog. I'm going to use my family's lab as an example here. My parents live on the bay and the lab's favourite thing is to chase after ducks going by. When she sees a duck, she's in her zone and you could be waving a hotdog in front of her face or be squeaking her favourite toy, and she wouldn't notice a thing. But she would always respond to her recall, no matter how close she was to catching that duck. Now, the question is, is a dog in prey drive akin to a dog in "aggression" drive doing bitework? That's what I found in the previous post from CorgiPower (http://www.chazhound.com/forums/t71467/#post992681) that really got me- that dogs in aggression drive aren't going to respond to reward based methods. If they don't, to what extent will they respond to a tug on a choke collar or pinch from a prong? I just don't believe that such a dog would be more responsive to a correction than something that they were conditioned to previously via positive reinforcement. I wouldn't want a dog who will only respond to a physical reprimand, and I don't think that's necessary to have when competing in Schutzhund. But again, I'm very new to the sport so I could be completely wrong.

    I think I can do it, and I'll certainly try. Now it's all down to finding a good club (of course I found one I absolutely loved, along with a great breeder, only to find out I was relocating to the UK....back to square one!).
     
  17. Zoom

    Zoom Twin 2.0

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    Yes. My first training mentor was a hard-core Koehler-type trainer, had just gotten done with a kennel full of military Mals. She had me read his books, practice his methods and I finally got sick of the "yank and crank". I was working with pet dogs, many of whom were very soft, others who just hadn't been taught to listen and I knew that wasn't the right style to use on these guys, but I wasn't given much leeway. I finally balked completely, started reading up on Patricia McConnell and the like, found a new mentor and learned how to work WITH the dog, instead of against/constantly fighting/having to escalate methods to get results.

    I ended up helping to retrain a dog she had worked with, because after being subjected to enough pinch collar corrections, followed up with e-collar corrections after the dog shut down on the pinch, this particular dog would freeze and hit the ground when told to "come". It ended up being as simple as changing the cue and making it super, super fun, but still.

    I'm not totally 100% against physical/collar corrections, though I feel the times they are required and necessary are so few and far in between that your average person doesn't need to be shown. It's just too easy for Joe Public to forget that they are training and just start doling out punishments for every little thing, instead of working to prevent that behavior.
     
  18. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    I am not entirely sure what "aggression drive" is, and I'm not sure that poster is on Chaz any more to tell us. But I do kinda have an idea of what she's referring to, simply because I've seen it, and I don't know what I'd call it.

    But no, it's not akin to prey drive. As far as what the dog is thinking or will respond to or what drive or combination of drives he's in vary somewhat, but there is an ideal state that we try to get the dog into.

    The thing about a "correction" at that point is that it's not a correction. It's an interrupter/attention getter. You can use positive motivation to train a dog to out and to come back to you, but when doing schutzhund, you want him to maintain focus on and drive for the helper while he heels with you, while he outs and guards, while he returns to you.
     
  19. AdrianneIsabel

    AdrianneIsabel Glutton for Crazy

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    Our positive only training member of our SchH club has a dirty biting dog who will come up the lead on the owner and has attacked two other handlers. Ask me and that dog needs some good old fashion correction in its life.

    Everyones an expert until they hit a wall.


    Personally I train in Schutzhund, Flyball, Agility, Obedience and Therapy work. I use primarily operant conditioning without a clicker, I use a marker word and the reward is either a bite or a treat depending on my dog. I do as well use correction in every venue when appropriate. I have corrected my dog for crossing over in flyball, I have corrected my dog for bailing off an A frame at the top, I have corrected my dog for biting out of frustration in schutzhund, I have corrected my dog for ignoring a stay command and I have corrected my dog for jumping on a patient in therapy work. I find correction a valid choice in every venue once a dog understands what is being asked of them. I have never met anyone (and i know some high titling die hard clicker trainers) who does not believe at a certain point a dog needs some correction.

    That of course, is when things get subjective. My corrections are anywhere from a sound, a lead pop, a removal of the reward, a forced long down, or a repeat of an exercise. Anything the dog doesn't want to do is in fact a correction, it's a matter of subjective semantics in dog training when discussing corrections and it should be explained if it is to be discussed reasonably.

    Do I kick my dog? Nope, not usually(but I have been known to kick to break up a fight). Do I scream at my dog? Nope, not usually (but I have been known to scream at them for pushing their limits). Do I make my dog listen even if they don't want to and demand for safety, you betcha.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  20. AdrianneIsabel

    AdrianneIsabel Glutton for Crazy

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    I completely agree.

    Sit means Sit is a huge training company here and sadly the dream team for the average dog owner. They shock the dog with forced reward (the reward being a lack of shock) and call it training. They claim the shock is actually an act of positive training, it amazes me the propaganda they can spew and people embrace.

    As for aggressive drive I think y'all are referring to defense drive which is a valid drive but should only be reached for a assessed by an experienced and fair trainer and very experienced helper.

    We used the smallest amount of defense drive to kick in my malinois bark in bite work and we're better for it. By using it I mean literally I held the lead and the helper (my TD) got down on all four, maintained eye contact and crept towards the dog. This made my male just uncomfortable enough he spit out a bark and was immediately rewarded with a bite. After that twice he caught on that bark=bite.

    We have no reason to push a dog as far as tabling but that is the common method of building defense drive. I won't allow it with my dogs.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010

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